The Basque refugee children of the Spanish Civil War in the UK: memory and memorialisation.
University of Southampton, School of Humanities,
A vast body of knowledge has been produced in the field of war remembrance, particularly concerning the Spanish Civil War. However, the representation and interpretation of that conflictual past have been increasingly contested within the wider context of ‘recuperation of historical memory’ which is taking place both in Spain and elsewhere. An academic gap has been identified with regard to the part played by the Basque Children (Niños Vascos) who were evacuated to the UK in 1937 as a result of the war. This thesis investigates the impact that forced migration has had on these children’s identity construction, particularly those who settled permanently in the host country.
The thesis is a comparative examination of the process of memory construction and memorialisation, across transnational spaces and time. It analyses the nature and development of commemorative practices both in the UK and in the Basque Country, addressing some of the most fundamental issues related to agency and categorisations. My analysis of the social actors goes beyond Jelin’s ‘memory entrepreneurs’ to include those memory profiteers who benefit from a return to the past in order to fulfil their own personal agendas. I introduce the new term ‘conmemoraccionistas’ to refer to them.
The central question dealt with here is how identities are constructed and reconstructed in the social and political arenas in which remembrance takes place. By using ethnography and a multimodal approach, this study provides an in-depth analysis of the discourses of the main agents engaged in memory production, and their agendas. It also identifies reasons for disengagement. Finally, it examines the interrelated narratives of those social actors and how they build on interaction with each other in a complex and continually changing social reality, where I argue, identities can no longer be approached from an essentialist polarising and dichotomising perspective. On the contrary, new approaches are needed which see identitarian development as a dynamic and accumulative process in which different actors have an input and identities are displayed according to particular contexts, settings, and audiences.
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